Collections Management Policy
In support of its mission and vision “We exist to invite all people to engage with the Bible,” Museum of the Bible (MOTB) acquires through purchase, gift, bequest, or exchange, individual Work(s) and collections related to the Bible that build upon MOTB’s existing strengths while extending the Collection’s cultural and chronological boundaries and accommodating new media. MOTB will study, conserve, and present the artistic and historic achievements of its Collections to the public, where these works may educate, inspire, and be enjoyed by all.
The authority to collect Work(s) for the Museum’s Collection is vested in the Board of Directors, the Chief Curatorial Officer and in some cases, may be delegated to the Director of Collections Operations. Museum curators recommend potential acquisitions to the Director of Collections. The Director of Collections then recommends the potential acquisition to the Chief Curatorial Officer who presents this to the Education Committee of the Board of Directors, for approval. MOTB strives to acquire Work(s) with excellent documentary value and recognizes the importance of documenting those acquisitions accurately and completely. The continued development and documentation of the Collections is therefore a vital responsibility of MOTB’s curatorial staff.
MOTB is committed to the responsible acquisition of Work(s) for the permanent Collection pursuant to the following guidelines:
- The Work(s) must conform to and be consistent with the Statement of Principles and Guidelines outlined in the Acquisitions Policy Manual.
- Priority should be given to accepting or acquiring Work(s) of unusual quality or rarity, which integrate with and fill a need in the Collection, and do not unnecessarily duplicate items already in the Museum Collections.
- No Work(s) shall be acquired if the Museum is unable to give it proper storage, protection and preservation.
- The Museum must comply with all applicable local, state, and federal U.S. laws, and should also comply with foreign laws; governing ownership and title, import, export, and other issues pertinent to acquisition decisions.
- The Museum must thoroughly research the ownership history of a Work(s) prior to its acquisition and make a rigorous effort to obtain accurate written documentation with respect to its history, including its publication and exhibition history, import and export documents as relevant, and its copyright ownership.
- Where a Work(s) is being imported into the U.S. in connection with its acquisition by the Museum, import documentation must be obtained and compliance with the export laws of the country of immediate past export to the U.S. must be confirmed.
- No Work(s) shall be acquired if its record of provenance is unsatisfactory or if there is any uncertainty concerning legal transfer of title.
- Title and copyright ownership to all Work(s) acquired for the Collections should be obtained free and clear without restrictions as to use or future disposition.
- No Work(s) should be accepted with an attribution or circumstances of exhibition, interpretation, or placement of the object guaranteed in perpetuity. Additionally, no unauthorized staff or member of the Board, or council committee may obligate the Museum to accept any material.
- The Museum, upon deliberations by the Board, Chief Executive Officer, and Chief Curatorial Officer, reserves the right to accept or refuse any donation of collections material, or part thereof.
Statement of Principles
MOTB is committed to the responsible acquisition, whether by purchase, gift, bequest or exchange, of all Work(s) of visual or material culture. MOTB believes the public should have the opportunity to encounter Work(s) from MOTB’s Collection directly, in the context of their own and other cultures, and where these works may educate, inspire and be enjoyed by all.
MOTB deplores plundering, looting, or theft of cultural Work(s) from individuals, museums, or other repositories. MOTB likewise deplores the unscientific excavation of archaeological materials and ancient art from archaeological sites, the destruction or defacing of ancient monuments, and the illicit trafficking of cultural Work(s).
The Museum is committed to the principle that acquisitions be made according to the highest standards of ethical and professional practice in accordance with applicable law in such a way that they do not provide a material incentive to looting whether direct or indirect. The Museum will exercise due diligence in the acquisition process, in particular through research of proposed acquisitions, transparency in acquisition policies, and full and prompt public disclosure following the acquisition.
The Museum reaffirms the value of licit markets for the legal sale and export of Work(s) as an effective means of deterring the illicit excavation and trafficking of cultural Work(s). MOTB operates in accordance with the American Association of Museum Directors (AAMD), American Alliance of Museums (AAM), and the International Council of Museums (ICOM). MOTB recognizes the 1970 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import and Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, as well as, the 1998 Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art.
These values provide the most pertinent threshold for the application of more rigorous standards to the acquisition of cultural materials and ancient art as well as for the development of a unified set of expectations for MOTB and its donors.
Transfer of Legal Title
All necessary forms related to the acquisitions process (i.e., Deed of Gift, Bill of Sale, Confirmation of Receipt, and/or Temporary Deposit Forms) can be found in the Acquisitions Policy Manual. These forms must be signed and dated, as applicable, by the legal owner(s) or authorized agent(s) and counter-signed by an authorized representative of the Museum.
All transfers must include a letter from the originating institution and must be signed by an authorized staff member of that institution. For bequests, all release or receipt of Work(s) documents must be forwarded to the Registration Department for processing, after consultation and signature of the Chief Curatorial Officer. A purchase order or invoice approved and signed by the Chief Curatorial Officer or designee is required for all cultural Work(s) purchased.
In some instances, MOTB may encounter unsolicited Work(s) left in the care of the Museum or expired loans which have gone ‘unclaimed.’ In the event that MOTB is unable to locate, contact / respond to or otherwise make notice to the lender of the unclaimed property, MOTB in conjunction with applicable laws of both Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and Washington D.C., whichever is more favorable—and dependent on the location of the loan, may be utilized to gain title of the property under certain legal conditions. It is however, incumbent upon MOTB staff to ensure that a Good Faith Search and Actual Notice are executed. Further detailed clauses can be located in the MOTB Loan Policy Manual under Section III, (1.03) sub sections 1 - 2.
Any Work(s) discovered in Museum Collections lacking any documentation (undocumented object(s) or found-in-collections) as to how it was acquired and lacking any evidence that someone else owns the item can be considered found-in-collections (FIC). The absence of such documentation supports a presumption that ownership was transferred to the Museum at the time of acquisition. The Museum may consider the Work(s) as its own and accession it into MOTB’s permanent Collection unless someone can overcome this presumption by providing evidence of clear title to the Work(s). The Chief Curatorial Officer must be consulted before Work(s) of unconfirmed ownership are recommended for acquisition or deaccession and/or disposal. The use of such Work(s) for exhibition or research will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Internal Revenue Service Requirements
Any Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form 8283 for noncash charitable donations will be signed on behalf of the Museum by the Comptroller.
All donations will be acknowledged with a letter of appreciation from the Chief Curatorial Officer or designee accompanied by a countersigned copy of the required documentation.
In accordance with ICOM, valuations may be made for the purposes of insuring the Museum Collections. Opinions, however, on the monetary value of other Work(s) should only be given upon official request from other museums or competent legal, governmental or other public authorities.
Under no circumstances will members of the Museum staff provide an appraisal of Work(s) or reveal the value assigned to an artifact by the Museum. Requests for exceptions to this prohibition must be submitted to the Chief Curatorial Officer. The Museum will not pay for an appraisal or reimburse a donor for appraisal costs, unless it is determined to be in the best interests of the Museum to do so. The matter will be presented to the Chief Curatorial Officer for review and to the Curatorial Department for approval in advance of making such a commitment.
Museum staff will provide several names of appraisers and will make every effort to provide access to the materials, if already in the Museum’s custody, to independent and/or IRS appraisers. An appraisal is not a requisite for acceptance of a donation. However, if a donor has obtained an appraisal from an independent appraiser, the Museum will request copies of the appraisal for its permanent records.
Identification and authentication may be conducted internally for insurance purposes and given to external institutions for academic or scholarly purposes and in compliance with the legitimate requests of professional or governmental bodies or their agencies.
No member of the Museum staff shall knowingly appraise, identify, or otherwise authenticate historical or cultural Work(s) for other persons, professional or governmental bodies, or their agencies under circumstances that could encourage or benefit illegal, unethical, or irresponsible traffic in such Work(s).
Where appropriate, the Museum will assist owners in finding qualified professionals who can provide authentication or appraisals—as mentioned under “Appraisals.”
Acquisitions by Purchase, Gift, Bequest or Exchange—and the responsibilities of the Board.
The first responsibility of MOTB’s Board of Trustees is to protect and develop the assets of the Museum. The chief goal of the Board is to acquire high-quality and reputable Work(s) in accordance with the Museum’s Acquisitions Policy Manual and in line with the Museum’s Mission “to Engage all people with the Bible.” It is the Board’s responsibility to establish and reinforce these goals. From this, it follows that the Board is responsible for providing adequate and dependable funding in a manner that enables MOTB to accomplish these goals.
In their deliberations, the Board, Chief Executive Officer, Chief Curatorial Officer, and parties necessary for determining acquisition, are guided by strict policies generally outlined here and detailed comprehensively in guidelines published by AAM, AAMD, and ICOM, among others, in determining the appropriateness of Work(s) to be added to the permanent Collection.
Funds available to the Museum for the purchase of Work(s) are subject to the control of the Board but may be appropriated to the Chief Curatorial Officer by the Board, at its discretion.
The curator examining an acquisition by gift or bequest will make a formal recommendation as to whether MOTB should accept or decline the gift or bequest to the Chief Curatorial Officer in writing. Each Gift/Donation Request (example templates may be found in MOTB’s Acquisition Policy Manual), will be accompanied by a written recommendation from the relevant curator to the Chief Curatorial Officer or designee that:
- Provides pertinent “tombstone” information about the Work(s), including a basic description of the work, materials, date, seller/donor and suggested credit line,
- Describes the importance of the Work(s) in the context of the departmental Collections strategy,
- Provides donor information (for gifts and bequests),
- Provides all available provenance information and import/export documentation as outlined in MOTB’s Statement of Principles and Guidelines in the Acquisitions Policy Manual,
- Where possible, each acquisition proposal will also include a written condition report from the donor, dealer, individual, or institution that addresses:
- As part of the standard procedure for all proposed gifts, the Museum will:
It is important to avoid any personal or organizational conflict-of-interest situations, or even the appearance of any conflict of interest. Consequently, in any instance where a Board Member, Executive Leadership, or any other institutional-wide staff member has a direct financial interest in the acquisition of Work(s) for the Collection, the following procedure shall be followed: The individual with the direct financial interest must, upon realization of such an interest, immediately disclose this fact to the Board of Trustees, Chief Executive Officer, Chief Curatorial Officer and any other necessary party. The individual must then recuse him – or herself from any further participation in the transaction. The Chief Curatorial Officer will present the matter for review and approval by the CEO and Board prior to the completion of the transaction.
Ethics of Collecting
Museum of the Bible (MOTB) recognizes that collecting is an increasingly complex task that requires careful consideration and planning. While the Acquisition Policy Manual offers a detailed framework for responsible decision-making in the development of MOTB’s Collections, it is incumbent to acknowledge the importance of cultural property protection at home and abroad, domestic and foreign cultural heritage laws, and international conventions on cultural heritage throughout the collecting process.
MOTB is committed to public service and therefore will demonstrate that it is a good steward of its resources and a good neighbor to its community, region, and world at large. The Museum puts the public trust above the interests of any individual, university, institution, or museum. Ethical or legal questions regarding the acquisition of Work(s) or a collection most often arise in the cases of stolen, improperly collected, or illicitly exported Work(s).
The Museum will not purchase or accept as a gift or loan any Work(s) known or suspected to have been stolen from a museum, collector, dealer, or specific site. When the legal status of a Work(s) or collection is in question, it is the responsibility of the Museum to attempt to establish its provenance prior to acquisition. In these circumstances, the Museum must make all reasonable inquiries of the appropriate individuals, institutions, and/or government agencies, both foreign and domestic, to determine whether the Museum can obtain clear and unrestricted title if a purchase or gift is contemplated, or that a proposed lender has clear title at the time the loan is undertaken.
When a collection offered to the Museum for purchase, gift, or loan is suspected or discovered to be stolen property, all pertinent facts must be reported to the Chief Curatorial Officer, who will then notify the CEO, Board of Trustees, and the appropriate authorities, at the earliest opportunity.
Illicitly Exported Collections
The Museum will not acquire collections that it suspects were exported in violation of the laws of their country of origin. (Countries of origin will be considered to be the geopolitical boundaries that existed at the time of export, or, if that country no longer exists, the geopolitical boundaries of the modern state.) The Museum will consider as valid the laws in place in the countries of origin at the time of export, or if the date of export is unknown, the date of the first documented appearance of the Work(s) in the United States. When questions of illicit export arise, the Museum will consult the appropriate foreign authority as to the proper course of action.
If there is significant reason to believe that a Work(s) was exported in violation of local law, the country of origin will be informed of the potential acquisition and asked to provide relevant information. Furthermore, where possible, MOTB will provide resources and research initiatives to pursue relevant information needed. In this situation, potential vendors and donors must be informed of this policy.
The Museum also will abstain from purchasing or otherwise acquiring Work(s) that it knows, or suspects are in any way in contravention of treaties and international conventions to which the United States is a signatory.
Repatriation of Illicitly Exported Collections
If the Museum acquires a Work(s) that is part of another country’s cultural patrimony in a manner that is inconsistent with this policy, it will seek to make equitable arrangements for the return to the country of origin if it is legally free to do so.
Forgeries and Falsified Documents
Any potential Collection materials that are determined to be forgeries or falsified documents will not be accessioned into the permanent Collection. The owner or source will be notified as to the inauthenticity of the Work(s) and may be asked to donate the Work(s) to ensure that it will not, at some future time, inadvertently or otherwise, be considered authentic. In some cases, the Work(s) may be retained by the Museum, physically marked appropriately, identified as a fake in all records, and used for reference or for authentication of future acquisitions. Forgeries and falsified documents found within the permanent Collection may be permanently moved to a different Collection (e.g., Education Collection) or if need be, deaccessioned.
There may be circumstances in which inauthentic or otherwise wrongly-attributed Work(s) remain a part of the permanent Collection. Such situations would be considered on an individual basis.
The Museum has full stewardship responsibilities for acquired and accessioned Work(s) and Collections. All accessioned Work(s) are acquired, but not all acquisitions are meant to be accessioned. Accessioning is a two-part process of acquiring a Work(s) (acquisition) and documenting a Work(s) (registration) into the designated Collection. The two parts of the process hinge on transfer of title to the Museum. Further information on MOTB’s Permanent, Prop, and Education Collections can be referenced in the Acquisitions Policy Manual.
The word accession may be used to denote (1) a Work(s) acquired by the Museum for its permanent Collection or (2) the act of recording and processing an addition to the permanent Collection by means of assigning a unique number that allows the Museum to connect a Work(s) to its documentation.
A curator notifies a registrar of an incoming Work(s) or collection or of the receipt of an incoming Work(s) or collection. A registrar will then make the necessary transportation arrangements for the safe and secure shipment of the collection to MOTB premises in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma or Washington, DC. In certain instances, and in consultation with the appropriate registrar or preparator, it may be necessary for a curator to make the appropriate arrangements for shipment (e.g., hand carry.)
Upon receipt of a signed deed of gift, bill of sale, temporary custody agreement, etc., a copy, with the acknowledgement letter from the Chief Curatorial Officer or designee will be sent to the donor or vendor. A copy of the necessary documentation will be retained with the curator, and all originals will be given to the Registration Department prior to shipment/delivery of Work(s).
The donor and curator each keep their respective copies of the documents, with the Registration Department retaining the originals. For purchases, a copy of the confirmation of receipt may be issued to the vendor upon request. When a delivery is received by a registrar, it is recorded with a brief description in The Museum System (TMS) software and the incoming delivery portion is included in the shipping module within TMS. Additionally, a copy of the confirmation of receipt should be scanned and included in the Antiquities Drive along with any other pertinent documents. The Conservation Department must then receive this delivery for evaluation and quarantine before moving it into the main Collections Storage Area.
A certified preparator unloads the shipment in conjunction with a registrar. The registrar/preparator unpacks the shipment and completes an initial inventory and condition report with photography and notes in conservation studio (another capability within TMS). The inventory and conditioning process must be conducted using all previously received documentation.
Then, the registrar assigns a unique numeric identification, populated sequentially by TMS. All registration files, manual and electronic, are updated with this information by the registrar/archivist. The accession number indicates ownership, classification and a sequential number that indicates the next available number in that specific classification. The permanent accession number is recorded both digitally and physically. Following the formal acceptance of the Work(s) into the system, the new acquisition is ready to be cataloged with all known information recorded in the record by the respective curator.
Deaccessioning is the formal change in recorded status of a Work(s) within MOTB’s Collections, namely: (1) permanently removing a Work(s) from the Museum’s Collections; or (2) formally removing an accessioned Work(s) from the Museum’s permanent Collection. While the deaccession policies are addressed generally here, in-depth review of MOTB’s Deaccession Policy Manual is encouraged.
MOTB, in support of its mission and vision, aims to preserve and build Collections for the benefit of present and future generations; this goal can be challenged when removal of a Work(s) from the Collections becomes necessary. Therefore, such activity is carried out in a thoughtful and careful manner since deaccessioning is a long-lasting and sensitive issue for museums worldwide. Despite the controversies that can surround deaccessioning, there may at times be a compelling reason to deaccession Work(s) from the Museum’s Collection. This policy is intended to help MOTB’s staff understand potential issues when evaluating the deaccession or disposal of a Work(s) and provides a framework for responsible decision-making in the process of MOTB’s Collections and in accordance with the established standards of AAM, AAMD, ICOM, and the National Park Service (NPS).
Statement of Deaccession Criteria
Deaccessions will only be considered when the Work(s) in question is:
- Not within the scope or mission of MOTB.
- Beyond the capability of the Museum to maintain, preserve, and store with the highest ethical standards.
- Not useful for research, exhibition, or educational programs in the foreseeable future.
- Duplicates of another Work(s).
- Of poor quality, less important, incomplete, or inauthentic examples.
- Physically deteriorated or hazardous materials.
- Originally acquired illegally or unethically.
- Subject to a legislative mandate, e.g., repatriation.
- Subject to contractual donor restrictions the Museum is no longer able to meet.
- Found to be part of a set that belongs to another institution, or more appropriate to the collection of another institution.
- The Work(s) is being sold as part of MOTB’s effort to refine and improve its permanent Collections, in keeping with the collecting goals reviewed and approved by MOTB’s Board of Trustees or governing body.
Authority and Decision Process
Deaccessioning is the result of a thoughtful and well-documented process. The following are critical steps in the process that should be clearly documented in the record of a Work(s). The registration team plays a key role in coordinating the steps in this process and providing vital information from MOTB’s records.
- Written justification linked to the collecting plan, outlining the decision criteria that apply. Written justification may be conducted by the Board of Directors, Executive Leadership, the Director of Collections, curators, and/or the registration team.
- Deaccessioning and disposal must comply with all applicable laws of both the District of Columbia and Oklahoma; and MOTB must observe any terms or obligations that pertain to MOTB’s acquisition of the Work(s).
- Verification of official legal title, checking records to ascertain if any restrictions exist from the original gift, bequest, or purchase. In particular, any copyright or trademark restrictions should be reviewed by legal counsel, since those rights will not automatically transfer to a new owner.
- Physical examination by a conservator to help establish appropriate means of disposal, including possible sale or destruction (MRM5,102).
- One or more outside appraisals, especially for objects of value and those which might be sold or traded.
- Outside opinions for items of value, especially if there is any uncertainty about provenance or authenticity.
- Internal review by all curatorial staff to assure full awareness of the plan to dispose of a Collection item.
- CEO/Chief Curatorial Officer and governing Board approval. This is where the final decision is made. Some decisions may be delegated to the CEO/CCO or Director, depending on the value of the Work(s). MOTB must double-check its relevant state laws to see if there are any external limitations on disposal. Ultimately, the final authority for the deaccessioning and disposal of Work(s) rests with the Board of Trustees or governing body or its designee.
- Working with external stakeholders. There is no obligation to notify the donor if the gift was unrestricted and MOTB owns the material free and clear. This will need to be decided on a case-by-case basis. Conferring with members of local community advisory groups is important to assure concurrence and avoid possible public outcry when the deaccession is officially announced. Special interest groups may include collectors, other museums, volunteers, and Museum membership groups.
Disposal Options – Selection of Methods
The best scenario may vary from case to case based on the type of materials and the needs of MOTB. No Work(s) should be acquired by MOTB staff, Board members, or their relatives. MOTB will assure that items are seriously considered for placement in other educational institutions throughout the disposal process. Whether there is a need to retain the Work(s) in the community, region, or country, or if it has any relevance as an item of cultural patrimony, will also be thoroughly examined. The following may be considered in selecting a method of disposal:
- Donation of the Work(s) to another museum, library, or archive for educational purposes.
- Exchange with another museum or non-profit institution.
- Educational and Research programs. MOTB encourages items to be used for study, school programs, hand-on demonstrations, exhibition props, or testing in conservation research.
- Physical Destruction: due to inherent vice, natural disaster, vandalism,
- Repatriation and/or cultural sensitivity.
- Private sale: not a standard alternative but may be justified in rare circumstances. If it is pursued, MOTB must keep good records and be ready to respond honestly to outside inquiries. In some cases where public auction is not possible or practical, material may be consigned to a dealer for sale.
- Public Auction: Work(s) must be deaccessioned if offered for public sale. This method is especially important when there is a need to generate funds to improve the prospects for MOTB’s future collecting. In considering this option the Museum must weigh the staff time and other costs associated with an appropriately administered sale in comparison to the anticipated proceeds. Since this option is one subject to close public scrutiny, it is important to review the procedures in some detail (Refer to MRM5 104-105).
- Per ICOM standards, proceeds should be applied solely to the purchase of additions to the Museum Collections. Therefore, MOTB shall only put forth proceeds from deaccessioned or disposed items to the acquisition of new Work(s) that help refine and further establish MOTB’s collecting goals.
Documentation of Deaccessions
When a Work(s) is deaccessioned, MOTB’s Registration Department must ensure all electronic and paper records are updated. Prior to deaccessioning, an image should be taken of the Work(s) and retained in the Museum’s records. As a Work(s) is disposed of, the method of disposition, including possible consignee, new owner, sale price and location, if known, should be recorded according to VI Documentation – Recordkeeping of the Deaccession Policy Manual. Necessary forms can be found in the appendices of the aforementioned document.
It is not required for MOTB to make deaccessions public, but it is courteous and good practice. A good resource to post this would be the AAM newsletter Aviso and on MOTB’s website to allow for transparency and requests or protests. A minimum of 30 days should be allotted for this public notice. Further information can be found in the Deaccession Policy Manual.
- If MOTB receives no requests or protests over the deaccession within the allotted 30 days of publication, then the Board, Executive Leadership, or designee, will sign the deaccession form and exchange agreement (or donation) and deaccession the Work(s).
- If MOTB’s publication produces requests or protests from other institutions or individuals then the Board, Executive Leadership, or designee, will consult the curator, registrar and any other allotted advisors, as appropriate, and determine the course of action.
Museum of the Bible actively lends parts of the MOTB Collection(s) to further engage domestic and global audiences. Additionally, the Museum actively borrows from external institutions to partner with leading organizations in the field, and to build professional rapport and long-term cooperation. These loans, whether incoming or outgoing, build upon existing strengths and weaknesses of MOTB’s Collections for the purpose of enhancing outreach.
MOTB is therefore committed to the principle that all loan processes be executed according to the highest standards of ethical and professional practice as established in the museum community. The Museum is guided by three main principles that concern the following:
- Encourage both the Museum and its lenders to use due diligence in monitoring loans;
- Allocate responsibilities fairly between the Museum, lenders and borrowers; and
- Resolve any issues of unclaimed loans left in MOTB’s custody, in a timely manner.
MOTB’s Loan Policy Manual includes comprehensive sections on both incoming and outgoing loans that are supplemented with written procedures to be implemented as thoroughly as possible.
The purpose of this brief synopsis is to provide a general overview of the established uniform rules governing all loan operations at the Museum. Therefore, this act should be interpreted with the highest museum standards in mind.
Commitment to Lenders
The Museum’s main responsibility is to protect, care-for, and fulfill, or in some cases exceed previously set obligations to all lenders.
- Condition Reports: condition assessments supported by photographic documentation, shall be made for all loans entering or leaving the Museum. This can be conducted through conservation studio (digitally) or on paper.
- Insurance: outgoing loans are to be insured by the borrower unless otherwise stated. Incoming loans shall be insured by the Museum unless the lender waives its requirement or requests use of its own insurance coverage.
- Approval: all loan agreements must receive final review, approval, and signature of the Chief Curatorial Officer or designee.
- Monitoring Loans: loans shall be monitored by the Registration Department for compliance with the terms of the loan. The appropriate curator/archivist shall be notified of any relevant pending activity or required action.
- Courier(s): The Museum will evaluate all information provided by the curator, conservator, registrar and preparator, in determining the need for a couriered shipment. The lead registrar will make the final determination. The Museum is guided by the principles set forth by the Smithsonian Institution’s National Gallery of Art on the established, Art in Transit, section nine “role of the courier” (pages 150-158). A courier must be a museum professional who represents the Museum Curatorial, Collections, and/or Registration Department. The courier pool is normally made up of curators, conservation staff, registrars, or preparators. Additionally, the couriering staff are always expected to act in the best interests of the shipment and of the Museum.
Outgoing Loans – Approval Process
When a request for a loan is received, MOTB’s approval procedure for outgoing loans involves the following key players:
- Curator: evaluates the project in general and indicates the availability of the loan based on any unannounced projects she/he may know about. Provenance issues also should be considered in case there are gaps in ownership history and obtaining immunity from seizure or protection from a civil claim becomes necessary.
- Registrar and Conservator: examine the condition of the Work(s) to be loaned. Size, weight, and shipping logistics to the borrower’s location are major factors that need to be adequately reviewed,
- Registrar also checks for other commitments during the period in question and for any other legal restrictions, (such as the donor’s requirements or U.S. Customs or Fish and Wildlife regulations), fine-art all-risk insurance policy compliance, etc.
- Chief Curatorial Officer (CCO): Final approval by the CCO and the Director of Collections Operations is required after the various departments have submitted their input.
In general, there should be good communication from MOTB to the prospective borrowing institution from the time the loan is requested until it is returned. It is critical that the curator, registrar, conservator, and CCO keep each other apprised of any pertinent information. It is up to the curator to ensure that the borrowing institution’s exhibition is in line with MOTB’s mission and that reputational harm of loaning the work(s) is carefully balanced. It is up to the registrar to coordinate the process and make certain that the loan item(s) and the borrowing institution are evaluated.
Requesting loans calls for the curator to send the prospective lender a detailed letter describing the purpose of the exhibition or loan activity and the Work(s) desired. The formal loan request should contain the following key information:
- The title of the exhibition and a description of the purpose of the loan.
- Length of the loan period (this should include the proposed shipping dates for delivery and return).
- Location(s) of the exhibition with dates (exhibit timeframe only).
- The financial responsibility that the Museum is willing to incur. For example, (i.e., packing, shipping, insurance, immunity from seizure) should be acknowledged at this time.
The deadline for the potential lender’s response should be noted to allow enough time for the loan approval. A copy of the lender’s letter, which typically is addressed to the director or curator should be forwarded to the registrar as soon as possible, so s/he can begin processing the loan and respond to the lender’s queries.
Often a loan agreement form accompanies the official loan request letter, along with a facilities report demonstrating Museum best practice standards. Other documentation, such as contracts that cover unusual circumstances, may also be appropriate. The following considerations must be analyzed prior to receiving the incoming loan(s):
- Determine which loan agreement is being used. Always push for MOTB’s loan agreement and the use of English as the agreed upon language. If the loan agreement is not executed in English, MOTB should obtain a certified translation of the agreement for its files. The responsible curator must review and approve. The lead registrar’s signature is required, as well as the Chief Curatorial Officer’s.
- Determine currency if the loan is international.
- Any uncertainties regarding provenance, ownership, copyright, authenticity, or attribution.
- Any lender restrictions. Review unique clauses with legal and insurance representatives.
- Associated costs, such as insurance, conservation, installation, storage, packing, crating, transportation, environmental fluctuations, handling, and exhibition.
- The condition of the Work(s) and its ability to withstand transportation, environmental fluctuations, handling, and exhibition.
- If the condition of the Work(s) is in question, then the Conservation Department must be consulted.
- An itemized list of all Work(s) along with fair market values included, if we are covering insurance. MOTB may not provide valuations for Work(s) in any way. If MOTB and the lender disagree on fair market value, then the loan may not be accepted.
- If MOTB is only paying for insurance premiums, then a copy of the lender’s insurance policy must be sent—no exceptions.
- The Museum will not accept any loan for an indefinite or permanent period, except if the loan is a fractional-interest or promised gift approved by the CCO and Board. These “gifts” should be treated as loans while in the Museum’s custody and until transfer of ownership is complete.
- If ownership of a Work(s) on loan to the Museum is contested, the Museum reserves the right to withhold the return of the Work(s) until legal ownership is determined.
- It is the responsibility of the lender or the lender’s designee to notify the Museum promptly in writing if there is any change in the ownership of an Work(s), or if there is a change in the identity or address of the lender. The Museum will always ensure a good-faith search and notice if reaching the lender is difficult as defined in MOTB’s Loan Policy Manual.
Temporary Custody Agreements
Temporary Custody Agreements permit the Museum to hold, research, and review potential acquisitions—allowing for physical examination of detail and condition, where needed. To maintain accountability of Work(s) under the Museum’s care, the Registration Department must inventory, identify, examine and photograph all temporarily held Work(s). The purpose, circumstances and expected duration of stay (should not exceed 90 days) will be recorded on a temporary deposit form. This form can be accessed in the Acquisition Policy Manual. All such Work(s) coming into the custody of the Museum must be recorded by a registrar within one week of their arrival. Owners shall release the Museum of liability for the Work(s) by promptly signing the Museum’s temporary deposit form. Temporarily deposited Work(s) will not be insured and it is the responsibility of the depositor to insure adequate coverage is in place.
Museum Staff “Code of Ethics”
Code of Ethics
MOTB recognizes that the effectiveness of a non-profit institution is directly related to the public’s perception of its integrity. The Museum serves the public good through demonstrating good stewardship of its resources, thereby elevating public trust.
The Museum maintains a Conflict of Interest and Business Ethics policy. This policy contains clauses that require all governing authorities, employees, and volunteers to adhere to a high level of professionalism and conduct throughout all operations. In addition to internally set standards, the Museum recognizes and adopts the American Alliance of Museum’s (AAM) Code of Ethics as well as the International Council of Museums (ICOM) standards relating to ethical conflict.
Personal Collecting and Dealing
MOTB implements standards and best practices for professional conduct for the many curatorial and collections functions at the Museum. The public good is the primary concern of all Museum staff. At no point should Museum personnel develop a personal collection that in any way compromises or conflicts with the credibility or interests of MOTB (CurCom, 8). Staff members are not permitted to bring objects from their personal collections into the Museum for storage or any other purpose that might prove beneficial for themselves. Staff members may not use MOTB resources to research their own collections or potential acquisitions.
Additionally, personnel employed by MOTB may not be active dealers in the Museum’s area of interest. Nor may staff actively engage in the buying and selling of cultural objects for personal or commercial profit.
In cases where objects owned by staff, Board Members, or others associated with the Museum may be appropriate for exhibition purposes, these objects should be reviewed by the exhibition curator or guest curator and a determination should be made about the appropriateness of the Work(s) for MOTB’s exhibition. All such loans of these objects will be governed by the Museum’s Loan Policy Manual. Personal collections should not be combined with the Museum Collections.
Personal objects may be used as office decoration but must be carefully labeled to indicate private ownership. If the object could be mistaken for a Work(s) in the Museum’s Collections, the owner must provide a signed statement to the Registration Department prior to the arrival of the object onsite, freeing the Museum from all liability for the Work(s).
Disaster and Emergency Preparedness Procedures
Museum of the Bible (MOTB) actively mitigates risk by planning and preparing for responding to the most-likely risks that the Collections could encounter. Whether at the Museum in Washington, DC or in the Collections Storage facilities in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, readiness at-all-times, is essential to successful preventive and response strategies. The Museum is committed to the principle that all prevention and response strategies be carried out to the highest standards of implementation and training—as established by the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative (SCRI), the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) and the American Alliance of Museums (AAM).
MOTB staff must refer to the Museum of the Bible Crisis Management and Emergency Response Plan drafted and implemented by the Office of Protective Services and Risk Mitigation (OPS). This policy is intended for the protection and evacuation of personnel, visitors, and Collections in the event of an emergency. These procedures have been distributed to all Museum personnel, and appropriate training and testing are routinely conducted so the procedures can be activated effectively if necessary.
The emergency plan includes instructions as to when to activate the plan, and instructions regarding authority and delegation in an emergency (i.e., emergency response teams and captains). This includes emergency telephone numbers, external assistance information, and procedures for response to fire, flood, bomb, theft, earthquake, medical emergency, demonstrations or protests, accident and illness, building and/or utility damage and community wide disasters. The plan includes floor plans of the Museum and storage facilities, locations of in-house supplies and equipment, and procedures for Collections salvage. The Collections staff establish and maintain a list of Collections priorities, approved by the CCO, in the event of an emergency or disaster. Such a priority list may be required in any material recovery effort.
MOTB Curatorial and Collections staff must refer to the Disaster and Emergency Preparedness Procedures Manual which is intended to guide staff in understanding the issues we will face when encountering an emergency or disaster and provides a framework for assessment, preparation, documentation, pack and move, and lastly, relocation and storage of Collections. Considering that no two emergency situations are alike, the manual describes the comprehensive work flow that can be customized to meet the needs of a specific emergency context through practiced processes.
Personal health and safety will always take priority over Collections.
Insurance and Risk Management
In keeping with the Museum’s public trust responsibilities, MOTB maintains an all-risk, wall-to-wall, fine-arts policy to insure Collections and loans. This insurance includes coverage on premises, in transit, and at other locations with policy limits per occurrence. The Registration Department will manage the insurance procedures and ensure that loan agreements and certificates of insurance are on file in compliance with insurance requirements.
Incoming loans must be insured by the Museum unless otherwise agreed upon. Outgoing loans should be insured by the borrower unless otherwise stated. All damage or loss of Work(s) must be reported immediately to the Director of Collections and Chief Curatorial Officer, followed by a written report. Notification to key staff must swiftly follow the call schedule as outlined in the Disaster and Emergency Preparedness Policy Manual.
A registrar will initiate all insurance claims with the insurance underwriter and shall advise appropriate staff, including the Chief Curatorial Officer, Chief Conservator, and Director of Collections. The Registration Department must maintain all related insurance records and provide appropriate reports. An assessment will be conducted every three years to evaluate the insurance coverage to ensure its accuracy for the value of the Museum Collections.
MOTB does not view insurance as a substitute for sound risk management. Therefore, care and control of the Collections, including: access, inventory, conservation and documentation are closely monitored and detailed in the Collections Care, Access, and Use Policy Manual.
The Disaster and Emergency Preparedness Policy Manual sets the framework for the following preventive measures to considered:
- Assess: determine potential vulnerabilities and/or threats, then confirm how best to retain control, and prioritize Work(s).
- Prepare: determine a safe location and route for relocation of Work(s), the necessary permission to move Work(s), the necessary response teams to execute the process, and the emergency inventory management method to track all movement. Lastly, ensure disaster response supplies are isolated and ready for use at any given moment.
- Document, Pack, and Move: Organize and determine how best to populate the emergency evacuation inventory form, set up a workspace, pack Work(s), and then label, track, and move, all while maintaining a consistent checklist.
- Relocate and Store: pre-determined vulnerabilities acknowledged and necessary sorting, recording, and security readiness.
Collections Care, Access, and Use
Museum of the Bible recognizes that collections stewardship is the careful, sound, and responsible management of the Work(s) entrusted to MOTB’s care. Possession of Collections incurs legal, social, and ethical obligations to provide proper physical storage, management, and care for the Collections and associated documentation, as well as proper intellectual control. Collections are held in trust for the public and made accessible for the public’s benefit. Effective collections stewardship ensures that the Work(s) MOTB owns, borrows, holds in its custody and/or uses are available and accessible to present and future generations
The Museum also recognizes the importance and interdependent nature of Work(s) and related documentation as crucial to the increase in, and dissemination of, knowledge about the Collection. Therefore, the records and other documentary materials that support the Collections are considered equally important and require the same degree of care and consideration. With that, the Museum will support and promote the Code of Ethics, Guidelines for Practice, and Commentaries as stated by the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC). Awareness of responsibilities for Collections care will be incorporated into all Museum operations and activities. Lastly, the Museum will provide information and training opportunities for all Museum staff on the proper care and handling of Collections.
The goal, purpose, priority, or product of any Museum activity will not take priority over the care and safety of any Work(s). All events involving Collections will incorporate and maintain the policies and procedures adopted for care and preservation. All documentation associated with the Collection or created by Museum use or related activity will be kept current and complete and must be properly labeled and linked to the appropriate Collection or related activity.
Curatorial and Collections staff must maintain an awareness of current requirements and standards for the proper care of Collections. All Collections are to be properly supported and housed while in storage, on exhibit, or in transit using the best techniques and materials possible. All Work(s) will be labeled, stored, handled, and transported with the following requirements in place:
- Only authorized personnel may handle Work(s) in the Collections. Consideration may be given to appraisers, researchers, Collections Department interns, and owners of Managed Collections during special circumstances, with the approval of the Director of Collections.
- Prior to handling Work(s), all handlers must undergo fine-art handling training with the signed approval of the Lead Registrar, Conservator, and Director of Collections upon completion.
- If gloves are not used for handling Work(s), the handler must have clean, dry hands before touching the Work(s), including Work(s) within the Education Collection.
- Suspected hazardous materials will be clearly labeled, stored, handled, and transported by trained, authorized staff.
Preventative conservation is an important element of MOTB policy and collections care. It is an essential responsibility of the Collections Department to create and maintain a protective environment for Collections in its care, whether in storage, on display, or in transit.
The following points are always considered when working with Collections:
- Cleanliness: all Collections storage and display areas must be regularly cleaned and kept free of damage-inducing or pest-causing debris.
- Environmental Conditions: temperature, humidity, and containment.
- Light levels: monitoring lumens/lux, ultraviolet light and infrared radiation.
- Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
Conservation and Restoration
MOTB carefully monitors the condition of Collections to determine when a Work may require conservation or restoration work and the services of a qualified conservator/restorer. The principal goal should be the stabilization of the Work. All conservation procedures are documented, as reversible as possible, and all alterations should be clearly distinguishable from the original Work.
The Museum Conservation team handles all internal conservation/restoration work for MOTB, unless specialty conservation/restoration work must be sought. Conservation Request Forms must be completed before any conservation/restoration work may be executed. Conservation Requests must be approved by the Work’s assigned Curator, a Registrar, and the Director of Collections prior to the start of any conservation-restoration work. Proper documentation of conservation-restoration work must be kept by the MOTB Registration team. Further information can be found in the Collections Care, Access, and Use Policy Manual.
In support of its mission and vision, MOTB is responsible for properly preserving, managing, and providing access to its Collections. In using Collections effectively for interpretation, education, exhibition, and research, MOTB must provide both physical and intellectual access to collections.
MOTB recognizes the balance of requirements for collections care and security with our public trust responsibilities. Designated staff members may approve access to and use of Collections and related information. Such access will be different for museum professionals than it is for the public, scholars, and commercial users. This policy also imposes reasonable restrictions on access and use if such limitations are in the best interests of the Collections’ long-term care and preservation.
The Collections and Curatorial staff realize that MOTB’s Collections are an extraordinary resource and, as caretakers of the Work(s), every effort will be made to bring the tangible and intangible values embodied in these Collections to the public. Furthermore, MOTB holds access standards at the highest level of ethical and professional practice, as established by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the American Association of Museum Directors (AAMD), the National Park Service (NPS), and the International Council of Museums (ICOM).
The Museum encourages access to its Collections in many ways, some of which include institutional access, intellectual access, access through exhibitions, access to Collections (digitally, in storage, through loans, and release of information), and through duplication, or reproduction. For further information on access criteria please refer to the Access, Care, and Use Policy Manual.
The Museum strives to provide public access to its Collections through exhibitions, programming, loans, publications, scholarship, and a research library. The Museum’s facilities and programming are open to the public and in compliance with all applicable local, state, and federal regulations and security procedures regarding public access to its facilities. Every effort is made to accommodate patrons with special needs. Further information can be found in the Collections Care, Access, and Use Policy Manual.
The Museum is meticulous in its observance of scholarly objectivity in providing information about its Collections and attesting to the authenticity of Collection materials. Institutional practices ensure that exhibitions, publications, and public information are presented honestly and objectively. The stated origin or attribution of an item reflects thorough investigation and is promptly updated. Exhibitions, publications, and programs are approached objectively and without prejudice.
Access through Exhibitions
Materials in the Museum’s Permanent Collection are directly accessible to the public through self-guided exhibitions and associated programs. Exhibitions are mounted in climate-controlled, secure locations within the Museum and at approved sites. Exhibition materials are visible and interpreted, but protected, with access controlled through the use of guards and secured barriers that include locked display cases and railed and/or alarmed display platforms. Due to conservation and preservation concerns, materials from the Permanent Collections are rotated on a six to twelve-month basis. Length of time on view is determined for each Work and depends on sensitive considerations such as condition, medium, construction, historic significance, and impact on the exhibition.
Access to Collections in Storage
The Museum’s Collections not currently on exhibition or on loan to outside institutions are stored in climate-controlled, high-security storage facilities. Routine access to these facilities is limited to authorized personnel. With appropriate notification and approval, other staff, interns, volunteers, and visitors gain access to restricted areas and Collections when accompanied by authorized staff. The same limitations apply for the Conservation Areas.
Requests for access to the Collections not on public display shall be coordinated through the Collections Department with the appropriate archival or curatorial staff and, in the case of access requests from the media, with the Museum’s Communications Division. The public and media shall have access to Collections only during scheduled hours and only when accompanied by an authorized staff member. Every effort is made to accommodate reasonable requests.
Access Through Loans
The Museum strives to make portions of the Collection available through loans to qualified borrowers who are able to meet the loan criteria as established in the Loan Policy Manual to ensure safety, security, and appropriate use of the Work(s).
Release of Collection Information
The Museum makes available, under controlled conditions, information about its Permanent Collection. The Collections Department is responsible for providing information regarding acquisitions, deaccessions, and loans. The Director of Collections or Chief Curatorial Officer or designee, must approve the release of privileged information regarding Collection donors, lenders, or vendors.
Information that may compromise the operations or security of the Museum, the safety of the Collections, or the privacy of the donor or source is kept confidential unless its release is approved by the Chief Curatorial Officer. Information that is not restricted will be made available to researchers with the approval of the relevant collections or curatorial staff. Collections and curatorial staff are responsible for providing provenance and research information about Collection materials.
Procedures regulating access to the Museum’s Collections and related information are developed by the Registration Department and in conjunction with curators and are approved by the Director of Collections or Chief Curatorial Officer.
Photography, Duplication, and Reproduction of Collection Materials
The Museum makes its Permanent Collection available to be photographed, duplicated, or reproduced under the supervision and management of appropriate Collections staff. The primary purposes of such surrogates are to facilitate access to the Collections, to safeguard the originals and limit handling, and to document the Museum’s holdings.
Official requests for Information may be made, adherent to the “Intellectual Property Rights and Reproduction Conditions,” found in the Collections Care, Access, and Use Policy Manual. Images, content, and other intellectual property owned or managed by MOTB are provided only for personal or professional study or for non-commercial use unless otherwise approved. No reproductions in any form may be made unless otherwise stated in writing by MOTB. Photographs of Work(s) without use restrictions may be requested. If a reproduction is necessary and made available, the requester/researcher may be charged a fee. If a fee is charged, it may be used as allowable in books, journals, newspapers, catalogs, magazines, dissertations and similar scholarly, commercial, or general publications, and through the internet. All such reproductions are to be fully credited as determined by the Museum.
The Museum reserves the right to refuse to provide photographic or other reprographic copies of Collection materials. To the extent it may be entitled to do so, the Museum may deny permission for certain reproductions if the attribution or other information about the material is in question; if the donor, source, or lender restrictions do not permit it; or if the circumstances of use demean, alter, or otherwise misrepresent the Work(s) and/or bring discredit to the Museum.
The Museum prohibits flash photography by the public of materials on exhibition or in storage. Special permission to flash photograph may be granted to authorized individuals. Flash photography (including motion picture) or videotaping of materials on exhibition or in storage will be permitted only by special permission and arrangement, with the consent of the responsible curatorial and collections staff, and after assurance from the conservation team that such activity will not prove harmful to the materials. Once permission has been granted, all photography by the media must be supervised by the Communications Department in consultation with the Collections Department.
Photography of Loaned or Limited Use Materials
Contracts or agreements that regulate the photography or dissemination and/or distribution of materials on loan or otherwise in the custody of the Museum will be strictly observed.
Policy Review and Revision
This document will be formally reviewed every three years by the Director of Collections. The procedures will continue to be revised regarding the day-to-day activities to reinforce the policy’s effectiveness. Suggested revisions of a procedural nature that do not affect policy and/or decision-making authority may be submitted at any time to the Chief Curatorial Officer, who will bring them to the attention of the Director of Collections. The Director of Collections will report these procedural changes to the Collections staff prior to making any revisions to this document. Any alterations to this document will be reported in a timely manner to the Chief Executive Officer and Board of Directors. Suggested revisions to policy and/or decision-making authority must be presented to the Chief Curatorial Officer, Executive Leadership, and the Board of Directors for prior review and approval.
Exceptions and Waivers
Unusual circumstances may dictate that exceptions and waivers be made to the policies and procedures stated in this document. Any such exceptions and waivers must be approved in advance by the Chief Curatorial Officer after consultation with Executive leadership and the Director of Collections. Any exceptions and waivers will be reported to the Chief Executive Officer. The Chief Curatorial Officer will keep a written record of such exceptions and waivers, and they will be reviewed when the policy is reviewed in its entirety.
The Chief Curatorial Officer is responsible for monitoring compliance with the policies and procedures outlined in this document. Acts of noncompliance will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis following consultation with the Director of Collections. From time to time, the Museum’s internal compliance team will review the compliance report(s) and may recommend actions regarding non-compliance.
Museum of the Bible’s “Collections Management Policy”, when accepted by the Board of Directors and adopted by the Curatorial Department, will be made available to all appropriate staff members, and, upon request, to donors, appropriate officials, and others.